Gym Classes: Where to Begin

Ask the Expert

Q:

I want to start taking classes at my local gym. I've been told that I will burn more calories and get faster results if I take a "boot camp" class. Is this the right way to go as a beginner? I want to lose 50 pounds and get more muscle tone.


A:

The best class for you is one you get excited about and will do! However, as a beginner, it's important to start slowly and make sure your body is ready to meet the demands of the class.

"Boot camp"-style classes are intense strength-training sessions. They feature high-impact cardio workout drills such as jumping jacks and running. These classes—often featuring the words "extreme," "blast" or "boot camp" in their titles—may have loud, heart-pumping music and an instructor who uses a commanding tone of voice to get you to work your hardest.

Such a fast-paced, high-energy class can cause you to forget about proper form and push yourself beyond what your body can do safely. Since you are new to exercise, I recommend finding a class that will focus on your postural muscles and body awareness.

A Pilates or Pilates-inspired body sculpting class is a good place to start. This type of class typically works your core, challenges your balance and coordination and uses light weights to strengthen your arms and legs. Since the pace is slower, you can focus on perfecting your form and working your joints safely. Practicing slow, controlled movements with proper form is challenging and will give you the foundation you need to safely join a faster-paced class later on, if you want to.

For the new exerciser, I recommend taking this type of class twice a week for four to six weeks before trying a high-impact class. Because Pilates-type classes do not include cardiovascular training, add low impact activities like walking on the treadmill, stationary biking, or swimming for a well-rounded workout routine.

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